"the hectic, unhealthy beauty of a consumptive"
Tuberculosis used to be known as Consumption, due to the way the illness 'consumes' its victims. The pervasive nature of the disease, and the melancholic, slow demise of the sufferer, led to a romanticism of it during the 19th Century. It was thought to be a cause of almost a third of all deaths in Paris during this time; such high figures demonstrate how the culture surrounding the illness could naturally come about. Some people believed that the suffering involved gave the patient a brief but potent capacity for creativity, and that it made women more beautiful. It is also worth noting here that in the frightened, superstitious days before medical knowledge, many people mistook tuberculosis as evidence for vampirism. This is, in a way, understandable, as the symptoms include weightloss, deathly pale skin, a hacking, bloody cough and a low body temperature. The effects on sinuses can create watery, light sensitive eyes, and the constant exhaustion appeared to be proof that the person in question had been out all night getting up to no good. The fact that the disease is highly contagious, but very slow to progress into severity, was thought to show that one member of a family or group was 'feeding' on the others, gradually draining them of life.